Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Friday called for an increase in the federal minimum wage, splitting with party leaders and some top business groups on what’s expected to a major issue in this year’s midterm elections.
“I ... part company with many of the conservatives of my party on the issue of the minimum wage,” he said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“I think we ought to raise it because, frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay, and I think communicating that is important to us,” he said.
President Obama and congressional Democrats have been pushing to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, from $7.25, to help low-income workers and reduce income inequality.
But most Republicans, along with groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation, oppose such an increase. They argue it would hurt low-wage workers because businesses would be forced to cut jobs to avoid the higher costs.
Last week, Senate Republicans blocked a vote on legislation to hike the minimum wage. Democrats are making a wage hike a key part of their pitch to voters leading up to November’s midterm elections.
Several states, including California, have raised their minimum-wage rate on their own. But Democrats and liberal groups said a nationwide increase is needed.
Romney, who lost the 2012 presidential election to Obama, said Republicans need to show working-class Americans that the party’s policies are better for them than those of the Democrats.
He noted that income inequality has widened in the five years Obama has been president, though much of that is because of the impact of the Great Recession, which started in late 2007.
“I also believe the key for our party is to be able to convince the people who are in the working population, particularly in the Hispanic community, that our party will help them get better jobs and better wages,” Romney said.
“Minority families have been the most hard-hit during these past five years,” he said.
Some Republicans have suggested that Romney run for president again in 2016, but he said Friday he would not.